Wilderness Wheel: The Future of Music

When I was a kid, music was a commodity, now it’s an ocean. I remember distinctly going into Sam the Record Man and buying 45s — two songs! — with money saved up from my paper route. Now, through iTunes, Limewire et al I have, essentially, access to all music ever made.

While this is heady and, by today’s generation expected and natural, I think that this era too will pass, and, again with technology as the enabler, we’ll return to a rather pre-historic era where music is hand-crafted and hand-delivered. After experiencing a generation of boundless, easy access to more and more generic music, I think we’ll seek out unique music experiences and a physical, more obvious connection to music makers.

By way of example, here is what arrived in the mail today from Issa (aka Jane Siberry):

Issa CD

Inside was a CD with two songs. I paid $15 for it — $7.50/song. I choose the price, and my receipt said:

1 x MAILORDER WILDERNESS (tour CD single) to help fund Issa recordings EF (education factor): disc=$1.5/paypal fee= .45/postage about $1 (US cities) so please pay above $3 if you want to provide revenue to Issa. = $15.00

I haven’t even listened to the music yet, and I already think of this as my most-treasured bit of music for the year.

This approach is not a return to music-as-commodity, nor is a “music as ocean.” It has more in common with patronage than anything else.

In its least soulful interpretation it is a realization of the untapped equity offered by a personal relationship — or at least the appearance or perception of a personal relationship — with the artist. In a more positive light it’s all about self-determination, disintermediation, DIY and all that other cool stuff.

But whatever it’s about, it’s really really cool to get a special, hand-addressed CD in the mail. You can’t buy the physical object anymore, but you can buy the MP3 files contained thereon.


Wondering Where the Lions Are's picture
Wondering Where... on November 15, 2007 - 20:34 Permalink

What was your CARBON footprint for two songs on a CD delivered manually from BC ?

Isn’t this approach to consumerism from another time when society was wholly ignorant AND irresponsible re: energy use and the planets future i.e. Oliver’s future?

I had hoped technology may lessen our demands on our precious land, not accelerate our demise via sentimentality for a time that has passed…

Stan Rogers's picture
Stan Rogers on November 16, 2007 - 00:06 Permalink

I would guess the footprint would be pretty small. The mail service runs anyway; there’s no record company to support; no store to heat and light; no flyers printed. The only way to reduce the negligible imprint would have been for the songs to have been sent digitally instead of encoded on a disc.
I don’t think is wasteful at all.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on November 16, 2007 - 04:15 Permalink

What he said.

Complaceny Hurts's picture
Complaceny Hurts on November 16, 2007 - 15:37 Permalink

Let’s all fly to Rio for the weekend (since ‘the flights run anyway’), eat endangered turtle meat (since the ‘hunters kill anyway’) and dabble in illegal ivory from sacred elephants (cause ‘the poachers still poach anyway’).

Less demand and use of services will REDUCE the number of unnecessary trips/carbon burning fuel exercises. Is this a stretch for anyone with sensitivity about reckless use of resources?

Shheesh, I guess if techies are travelling to Germany to play computer games, a CD from BC is a drop in the bucket. Sad and environmentally irresponsible.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on November 16, 2007 - 15:41 Permalink

What you said, too.

But if we’re going to do this, it’s gonna have to sound a lot more like fun, and a lot less like “new asceticism.”

On some levels I think I’d like to world to go out with a bang if the alternative is an endless diet of turnips.

These are the thoughts that make me both unelectable, and ineligible for New Alchemist membership.

Ann's picture
Ann on November 16, 2007 - 17:36 Permalink

And I’d have to add that coming to the Town and Country for lunch via the Jack Daniels Inn (and Berlin) (as per your activities) is pushing it a bit, too.

Stan Rogers's picture
Stan Rogers on November 16, 2007 - 22:25 Permalink

mmm mmm, endangered turtle meat… …

Andrew MacPherson's picture
Andrew MacPherson on November 19, 2007 - 18:01 Permalink

The new Radiohead album released this fall was a similar approach but by download instead — pay what you want/can. I just feel good every time I listen to those songs.